We are used to with cases of top government officials, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, altering date of births in the citizenship certificates and other academic documents to prolong their stay in powerful positions or to claim the benefits from the state. Gopal Parajuli, the then chief justice, earned ignominy for lying about his birth and academic certificates. The practice was found rampant among public school teachers and Nepal Police at one time. But Nepal Army officials were largely thought of as not among them. No more. According to our report, Nepal Army (NA) chief Purna Chandra Thapa is preparing to take action against nearly three dozen army officers including some brigadier generals after they were found to have submitted forged academic credentials and changed their dates of birth to prolong their stay in office. Many in NA are suspected to have produced fake credentials and altered dates of births to benefit from state allowances. Secret investigation of NA has shown that many officers had submitted fake academic credentials to secure promotions and, others had changed their dates of births to prolong their terms. NA has put on hold promotion and the term extension of most such officers, as investigation is going on. Troublingly, however, this is not the first time NA officials’ involvement in faking vital records has come out. Back in June, 2018, Ministry of Defense (MoD) had rejected a proposal from Nepal Army (NA) headquarters to extend the terms of Major General Deepak Prasad Bharati and brigadier generals Surya Khanal and Prem Shahi citing discrepancies in their citizenship details and academic credentials. Thus, NA should continue making thorough investigation of such cases and take action against its officials if they are found guilty for the sake of upholding its image.
But this case also points to shortcomings in recruitment system. For any person to join Nepal Army he or she has to possess citizenship certificate and dates and details of citizenship certificates should also match with certificates of academic qualification. So how did the suspected officials make to the top? It could be said that one reason investigation on fake certificate has not been initiated in NA is that NA has remained out of the purview of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Cases of anomalies, including on certificate issues, are handled by a separate Army Act. Thus unless Nepal Army itself takes the initiative, there is little chance of fake certificate holders being punished. On and off, CIAA has been taking action against those who submit fake and forged credentials to land jobs and secure promotions in Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and civil service. CIAA had filed a case against SSP Dr Mahesh Man Pradhan, for possessing fake academic certificates in July this year.
Vast majority of university graduates, who achieved degrees with hard work, remain unemployed. Lack of gainful opportunity in the country has compelled many of these graduates to leave the country. It would be injustice to the qualified youths to allow the fake certificate holders to go unpunished. NA chief Purna Chandra Thapa has taken a laudable step and he must take it to the logical end. But the investigation on fake certificate holders should cover other government departments as well.